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India tour of Zimbabwe: Fresh faces, fresh challenges

MUMBAI:When MS Dhoni was named as captain for India’s tour of Zimbabwe, it came as a surprise to many.

Not that the skipper didn’t deserve to go there. The series, though, wasn’t as big and important as some other bilateral tours. And just like last year, Ajinkya Rahane’s name did the rounds this time too to lead a bunch of rookies to the African nation.
Hence, during the pre-departure presser of the India captain at a suburban hotel on Tuesday, questions directed at Dhoni were on the lines of his motivation to go on a low-key tour like this after a hectic IPL season. Moreover, after the Zimbabwe series, India will play only Tests in the next 13-14 months, with only a few ODIs before the Champions Trophy in England in 2017.

“More than what you’ve achieved in your career is the fact that you are representing your country,” Dhoni said. “It’s only a brief period and that’s the biggest motivation for me. To achieve that I have to keep myself fit. The day I’m not able to run as fast as I’m right now, I’ll know where the guns will be coming from.
“I’ve to keep myself more fit so that fitness is not an issue. Form will keep going up and down. You can’t control that. I’m not a fast bowler, so the kind of demand of my body is different. I feel I’ve to be very fit. So far, my only concern is fitness,” the 34-year-old said.
Asked if Virat Kohli should take over as captain in all three formats of the game and Dhoni should just enjoy as a player, the latter said: “It’s not like I’m not enjoying the game. But it’s a decision that BCCI will take. It’s not up to me to decide that.”
Dhoni will marshal a bunch of rookies for the three ODIs and T20s each. The Jharkhand cricketer said it will be a different experience altogether playing with a new team.
“I think it will be a very different experience. The reason being that you keep playing with almost the same group of players. So you almost know the roles and responsibilities and what each players’ strengths are. There will be quite a few players in this bilateral series with whom I’ll be playing for the first time.
“So, I have to quickly assess their strengths and at the same time (see) according to the team composition what is the best possible slot and best possible manner in which each individual can be utilised. These will be the challenges,” he said.
The Indian selectors might have picked a young squad, but Dhoni felt the aim should be to look at next year’s Champions Trophy rather than the World Cup in 2019.
“I think it is too early. A lot of changes keep happening. What we’ve seen is that from the amount of cricket we play and the kind of schedule that we have, right now thinking of 2019 will be looking far too ahead into the future. Yes, next year’s Champions Trophy is closer. Also the fact that we don’t play a lot of ODI cricket. We play a lot of Test cricket this season. So, I feel every game that we get will be crucial,” he said.
‘Culture more important than language for coach’
With the BCCI stating in its advertisement that it will be desirable for India’s next head coach to know Hindi, Dhoni believed that more than language, the person should understand the country’s culture. “More than Hindi, English, one who understands our culture and our upbringing will be better with us. In the past, too, these things are important, and the coaches who have understood better, there has been a difference on the ground,” Dhoni said, adding. “I think there is no big problem with communication. You have seen the kind of players coming in, English is not a big barrier. The other players in the team take the initiative too. If someone doesn’t understand something, they ask ‘what does this mean?’. I feel, it (speaking Hindi) can be a criteria, but it can’t be the only criteria. What is important is from a team’s perspective what it needs. And according to that, we have to select whoever is the best available. One of the most important things is that they understand our culture. ”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the game. This decision (whether he should continue as limited-overs captain) will be taken by the BCCI, it’s not up to me to decide on that
–on his future as captain
I am 35 right now and the day I am not able to run as fast as I am running now, I know (time is up). I have to keep myself more fit. Fitness is very important
–on retirement speculation
There will be quite a few players in this bilateral series with whom I’ll be playing for the first time. So, I have to quickly assess their strengths
–on biggest test of Zim tour

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